TONASKET – Sarah Long is stoked to be Family Health Centers' newest medical provider.
A certified nurse midwife and women's health nurse practitioner, Long will begin seeing patients in the Tonasket area in mid-September.
“I feel grateful to be here, and feel it's a really good fit for me,” said Long, who graduated from Yale School of Nursing in May of 2017 and was finishing up a nurse-midwife fellowship in Texas when she was hired by FHC in April.
Long said a huge draw for her to accept the position with FHC was the “warmth and sense of community” she felt when she visited the area during a vacation from her job in Texas.
“I felt it was a wonderful place, and everyone was so friendly when folks from Family Health Centers showed me around,” said Long, adding another big draw is FHC's dedication to providing patients with collaborative “whole person care.”
“There is so much more that goes into health and wellbeing, and it needs to be addressed,” said Long. “The focus is on not just the person, but their community, environment and spirit. The vision is addressing not just the physical, but the whole person and the health of the community, which is dependent on the ecological and environmental fronts.”
For Long, the practice of meditation is a big part of her own well-being.
“As I was going through the accelerated nursing program at Yale, earning my RN in a year, taking the boards and going straight into the midwifery program, I felt my meditation practice was an essential part of keeping me well and focused. I'm not saying everyone needs to meditate; there are so many different ways we can find that, and I feel it is a very essential part of health.”
“We are so fortunate to attract such a great NP Midwife to our Tonasket community,” said FHC CEO Jesus Hernandez. “At FHC we are not just talking about 'whole person care.' Healthcare providers, like Sarah, are attracted to an organization where everyone in the organization is really 'walking our talk' around implementing whole person health practices. Part of this approach is the recognition that while clinical providers are licensed to deliver 'healthcare,' all of us can practice in 'health.' That is why we are partnering with other sectors, like schools, to improve the 'health' of beautiful Okanogan County.”
Long has an extensive of array of experience providing healthcare to women, from upper New York State, to the Mexican border.
After graduating with an MSN from the Nurse-Midwifery/Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Specialties program, Long worked at a free-standing clinic and birth center on the Texas-Mexico border. She provided bilingual English/Spanish care, serving a culturally and socioeconomically diverse population from Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
During the winter and spring of 2017, Long performed her final semester of clinical training in a medical center owned by the Navajo Nation, primarily serving patients from Navajo, Hopi and San Juan Southern Piute tribes.
“Of all the students in the nursing program with me, my site was the farthest away. It was the most remote site, and that's what I wanted,” said Long. “There, we did mobile health services. We would go to the two high schools and have a clinic the students could come to, either pregnant teens or those seeking contraceptives.”
In New Haven, Connecticut, Long performed clinical rotations at the Yale Women's Center, an urban clinic with a patient population including refugees from the middle east and other non-English speakers. From there, she went on to the Yale-New Haven Hospital's Vidone Birth Center, an academic hospital serving an economically and culturally diverse patient population. Next, she worked at the Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven, a federally qualified health center serving a primarily Latina, African American low-income population. Following graduation from Yale and before going to Texas, she did an apprenticeship at Homebirth Midwifery Practice in Albany, New York. There, she served members of the Amish community, traveling to their homes to provide care.
“Something very important to me in my education and experience was, I really wanted to have a wide range of experiences,” said Long. “From the Yale University hospital to the Navajo nation, I received a wide variety.”
Not only was there variety in settings, said Long, but also in the very different cultures.
“Navajo culture was very different from the Hopi, and both groups had different traditions around birth,” said Long. “For example, in one group the woman goes home after birth and remains in darkness. People would bring meals and tend to her in her home, with postpartum visits to the clinic made in the evening hours.”
As a certified nurse-midwife and women's health Nurse Practitioner, Long's scope of practice is women from adolescence through menopause, as well as infant exams. She performs well-woman annual exams, including pap smears, breast exams and primary care. She can prescribe all kinds of birth control, including insertion of IUDs and other implants. As a midwife, she treats women through their pregnancy and with postpartum care and performs newborn exams and can help women begin breast feeding and ensuring infants are having adequate weight gains.
Long said she was first inspired to become a midwife after viewing Ricki Lake's documentary “The business of being born.”
“I immediately started researching all the different paths to becoming a midwife,” said Long. 'When I told people I wanted to be a midwife, they said, 'Of course! You would be perfect.'”
Long said her passion for cultivating close relationships with people and her community fit in well with her chosen career.
“When I started thinking about different positions in women's healthcare and learned about midwifery, I realized that was a way to develop close relationships and serve women and families across the lifespan,” said Long.
Long is replacing FHC's Jackie Chambers, but will not be seeing male patients like Chambers did. Long said the only area she will treat men is if they are the partner of one of her female clients being treated for STDs.
“Jackie served this community for a long time, and hers are some big shoes to fill,” said Long.
Long will begin her clinical orientation with FHC September 10.